10 Favorite Children's Books
Amelia Bedelia has no idea what idioms or homonyms are. She does exactly what people tell her to do and takes everything they say literally. So when she is told to "put the lights out," she does just that --- she unscrews some light bulbs and takes them outside. Her literal mind frustrates her employers on a number of occasions but, in the end, they always forgive her. It is so much fun reading all about Amelia's strange adventures (or misadventures, I should say). But it's also enjoyable to look at the hilarious illustrations that accompany each story. After all, seeing Amelia smear jelly all over the kitchen floor has got to bring at least a smile to your face. --- Reviewed by Tom Donadio
Born third at a time when having more than two children per family is illegal and subject to seizure and punishment by the Population Police, Luke has spent all of his 12 years in hiding. His parents disobeyed once by having him and are determined not to do anything unlawful again. At first the woods around his family's farm are thick enough to conceal him when he plays and works outdoors, but when the government develops some of that land for housing, his world narrows to just the attic. Gazing through an air vent at new homes, he spies a child's face at a window after the family of four has already left for the day. Is it possible that he is not the only hidden child? Answering this question brings Luke greater danger than he has ever faced before, but also greater possibilities for some kind of life outside of the attic. To what extent is he willing to defy the government in order to have a life worth living?
Nine-year-old Beezus Quimby has her hands full with her little sister, Ramona. Sure, other people have little sisters that bother them sometimes, but is there anyone in the world like Ramona? Whether she's taking one bite out of every apple in a box or secretly inviting 15 other 4-year-olds to the house for a party, Ramona is always making trouble--and getting all the attention. Every big sister can relate to the trials and tribulations Beezus must endure. Old enough to be expected to take responsibility for her little sister, yet young enough to be mortified by every embarrassing plight the precocious preschooler gets them into, Beezus is constantly struggling with her mixed-up feelings about the exasperating Ramona.
Farmer Brown is dumbfounded when his cows discover an old typewriter in the barn and begin experimenting. Things really get out of hand when the cows began airing their grievances. "Dear Farmer Brown, The barn is very cold at night. We'd like some electric blankets. Sincerely, The Cows." When Farmer Brown denies the cows' request, the bovine organizers go on strike. With help from a neutral duck mediator, the exasperated Farmer Brown finally makes concessions. But, much to his dismay, the cows are not the only creatures that can type.
The day after her teacher announces, "You know, you can think of almost everything as a math problem," the narrator is afflicted with a "math curse" that affects how she views every facet of her day ("Everything seems to be a problem"). A minimum of the questions she asks herself are entirely logical ("How many quarts are in a gallon?"); some are far-fetched extrapolations (if an M&M is about one centimeter long and the Mississippi River is about 4000 kilometers long, how many M&Ms would it take to measure the length of this river?); and a happily hefty number are sheer nonsense: "I undo 8 buttons plus 2 shoelaces. I subtract 2 shoes. I multiply times 2 socks and divide by 3 pillows to get 5 sheep, remainder 1, which is all I need to count before I fall asleep." Like the text, Smith's wonderfully wacky collage-like art will give readers ample food for thought-even if it's part junk food. Here's a morsel: "Does tunafish + tunafish = fournafish?" Kids will want seconds-count on it.
If geese had graves, Mother Goose would be rolling in hers. The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales retells--and wreaks havoc on--the allegories we all thought we knew by heart. In these irreverent variations on well-known themes, the ugly duckling grows up to be an ugly duck, and the princess who kisses the frog wins only a mouthful of amphibian slime. The Stinky Cheese Man deconstructs not only the tradition of the fairy tale but also the entire notion of a book. Our naughty narrator, Jack, makes a mockery of the title page, the table of contents, and even the endpaper by shuffling, scoffing, and generally paying no mind to structure. Characters slide in and out of tales; Cinderella rebuffs Rumpelstiltskin, and the Giant at the top of the beanstalk snacks on the Little Red Hen. There are no lessons to be learned or morals to take to heart--just good, sarcastic fun that smart-alecks of all ages will love.
Did the story of the three little pigs ever seem slightly biased to you? All that huffing and puffing--could one wolf really be so unequivocally evil? Finally, we get to hear the rest of the story, "as told to author Jon Scieszka," straight from the wolf's mouth. As Alexander T. Wolf explains it, the whole Big Bad Wolf thing was just a big misunderstanding. Al Wolf was minding his own business, making his granny a cake, when he realized he was out of a key ingredient. He innocently went from house to house to house (one made of straw, one of sticks, and one of bricks) asking to borrow a cup of sugar. Could he help it if he had a bad cold, causing him to sneeze gigantic, gale-force sneezes? Could he help it if pigs these days use shabby construction materials? And after the pigs had been ever-so-accidentally killed, well, who can blame him for having a snack?
AYoung Widge is an Elizabethan Oliver Twist with a talent for shorthand. Raised in an orphanage, he is apprenticed to an unprincipled clergyman who trains Widge to use a cryptic writing system that he's invented to pirate sermons from other rectors. Hired by a mysterious traveler, the boy is hauled off to London to attend performances of Hamlet in order to transcribe the script for another theater company. Naturally, all does not go smoothly, and in the course of trying to recover his stolen notebook, Widge goes to work at the Globe, eventually donning a dress and wig to play Ophelia before the queen. The true identity of the mysterious traveler provides a neat twist at the end. As in Wild Timothy (Atheneum, 1987; o.p.) and several of his other books, Blackwood puts a young boy in a sink-or-swim predicament in alien territory where he discovers his own strength. It's a formula with endless appeal. This is a fast-moving historical novel that introduces an important era with casual familiarity.
From Publishers Weekly
Paterson's Newbery-winning novel becomes an entertaining and dramatic audiobook via Leonard's accomplished reading. Jess Aarons is eager to start fifth grade. He's been practicing his sprints all summer, determined to become the fastest runner at school. All seems to be on track, until the new girl in class (who also happens to be Jess's new next-door neighbor), Leslie Burke, leaves all the boys in the dust, including Jess. After this rather frustrating introduction, Jess and Leslie soon become inseparable. Together, they create an imaginary, secret kingdom in the woods called Terabithia that can be reached only by swinging across a creek bed on a rope. But one morning a tragic accident befalls Leslie as she ventures alone to Terabithia, and Jess's life is changed forever.
In a world with no poverty, no crime, no sickness and no unemployment, and where every family is happy, 12-year-old Jonas is chosen to be the community's Receiver of Memories. Under the tutelage of the Elders and an old man known as the Giver, he discovers the disturbing truth about his utopian world and struggles against the weight of its hypocrisy. With echoes of Brave New World, in this 1994 Newbery Medal winner, Lowry examines the idea that people might freely choose to give up their humanity in order to create a more stable society. Gradually Jonas learns just how costly this ordered and pain-free society can be, and boldly decides he cannot pay the price.